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I know my home­town does­n’t have the best rep­u­ta­tion. After all, we some­times get called the “Mis­take on the Lake.” The idea of Cleve­land being a cen­ter of tourism was such a joke, a local come­di­an made a fake tourism video when Cleve­land host­ed the MLB all-star game. But that per­cep­tion is final­ly start­ing to change. Nation­al Geo­graph­ic ranked Cleve­land as one of the best places in the world to vis­it in 2018. Cleve­land has beach­es, an amuse­ment park, muse­ums, the­atre, and a nation­al park with­in an hour’s dri­ve. We are a city that has some­thing for everyone. 

 

 

 

Cedar Point

 

If you are a roller coast­er fanat­ic, you need to vis­it Cedar Point, the “Roller Coast­er Cap­i­tal of the World.” Cedar Point has 18 roller coast­ers. They also have plen­ty of stuff for the lit­tle ones. They have 3 kids’ areas with plen­ty of rides that even my 20 month old could enjoy. Cedar Point also has a water park, a beach, and stage shows. In the fall, they have a fam­i­ly friend­ly Hal­loween event with trick or treat­ing, face paint­ing and lots of spe­cial treats! Because it gets real­ly cold and snowy in the win­ter in Cleve­land, Cedar Point is gen­er­al­ly not open from Novem­ber to April, and only on the week­ends in May, Sep­tem­ber and Octo­ber. I would­n’t want to ride a roller coast­er in Jan­u­ary in Cleve­land any­way, your face would freeze! Cedar Point is about an hour west of Cleveland. 

 

Top Thrill Dragster

Top Thrill Drag­ster is a lit­tle too intense for my tastes, I’ll stick with things that don’t go dou­ble the speed of my car. Pho­to Cour­tesy of Skyler Ger­ald on Unsplash

 

 

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

 

No guide to Cleve­land would be com­plete with­out men­tion­ing The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

If you’re won­der­ing why The Rock Hall is in Cleve­land, it’s because the term “Rock N Roll” was made pop­u­lar by a Cleve­land DJ named Alan Freed, and Cleve­land won a USA today poll ask­ing where the Rock Hall should be built, by a landslide. 

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has exhibits on 6 floors, includ­ing The Garage, where you can try out var­i­ous instru­ments for your­self. (The Garage is closed right now due to COVID restric­tions. You can check on it’s sta­tus online before you go). One of my favorite exhibits is the Pow­er of Rock, which fea­tures footage of past induc­tions, with spe­cial effects that make you feel like you’re see­ing a live per­for­mance. Some exhibits do fea­ture uncen­sored Rock and Roll his­to­ry, so there’s some lan­guage. Look for fam­i­ly fun days on Sun­days in the sum­mer. Fam­i­ly fun days are usu­al­ly host­ed on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Plaza, which by the way is shaped like a record play­er, and fea­tures chalk art, live music, and more!

 

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

The Rock Hall was sup­posed to be built down­town, but it was built on Lake Erie instead.

 

 

The Great Lakes Sci­ence Cen­ter is next door, and is def­i­nite­ly worth a vis­it if your kids are sci­ence buffs. The Sci­ence Cen­ter fea­tures hun­dreds of live sci­ence exhibits, a steamship and a NASA vis­i­tor center. 

 

Pro Tip: If you’re vis­it­ing the Rock Hall or the Sci­ence Cen­ter on a Sun­day in the fall, check the Cleve­land Browns sched­ule to see if they are play­ing at home. The sta­di­um is right next door, and Cleve­landers real­ly like to tail­gate, so traf­fic and park­ing will be a chal­lenge on game days. 

 

 

The West Side Market and Ohio City

 

The West Side Mar­ket is home to many small busi­ness­es and food ven­dors. It’s over 100 years old! Some of my per­son­al favorites are The Orale Mex­i­can food stand, and Christ­mas Ale Bacon, which is sold at the butch­er stands. Make sure you vis­it in the morn­ing, most of the best food is sold out by lunch time. The aisles at the mar­ket are a lit­tle tight, this isn’t the place to take your dou­ble stroller if you can help it. 

 

Camp­bel­l’s Pop­corn Fac­to­ry has a loca­tion inside the West Side Mar­ket, but their flag­ship store is just up the road. They sell gourmet pop­corn in a wide vari­ety of fla­vors, as well as gourmet choco­lates and amaz­ing cup­cakes. The cup­cakes are some of the best cup­cakes in the city. I loved them so much we served them at our wed­ding instead of a more tra­di­tion­al cake. Trust me on this one, you’ll want to try a Wed­ding Cake Vanil­la Cup­cake or a Red Vel­vet Cupcake. 

 

The secu­ri­ty guards at my recep­tion were super excit­ed when my mom offered them some leftovers!

 

When you’re done shop­ping at the mar­ket, you can walk up the street to get Mitchel­l’s Ice Cream. Their Ohio City loca­tion also dou­bles as an ice cream fac­to­ry. You can watch the ice cream being made from sev­er­al win­dows! To be around few­er peo­ple, and a bet­ter view of the fac­to­ry, take your ice cream upstairs. 

 

If you have a kid-free evening, check out Great Lakes Brew­ing Com­pa­ny. They have lots of deli­cious beers brewed in house, and you can take a tour of the fac­to­ry. If you’re in town while the Christ­mas Ale is in sea­son, don’t both­er look­ing at a menu, that’s what you want, trust me.

 

 

West Side Market

The West Side Mar­ket is a great des­ti­na­tion for snacks and so much more.

 

 

 

 

Playhouse Square

 

Did you know that Cleve­land has the sec­ond biggest the­atre dis­trict in the Unit­ed States? (After Broad­way). We do, and we get amaz­ing shows every year! We’ve had Hamili­ton, The Lion King, Wicked, and many more at Play­house Square. I’m a big the­atre buff, so I can say first hand that the tick­ets are very rea­son­ably priced. I know sev­er­al peo­ple that have made week­end trips to Cleve­land just to see a show at Play­house Square. 

 

 

Chandelier, Playhouse Square

Tak­ing a self­ie with the giant chan­de­lier at Play­house Square is a right of pas­sage for Cleve­landers. Pho­to cour­tesy of Stephen Leonar­di on Unsplash

 

DON’T MISS! A Local’s Guide to the Best of Fam­i­ly-Friend­ly Nashville

 

The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

 

Our Zoo has a few fea­tures that are unique. The Cleve­land Zoo fea­tures a huge indoor 2 sto­ry rain­for­est, which is a per­fect escape from our long, cold win­ters. They also have an ele­phant cross­ing, and you can feed a giraffe in the African Savan­nah sec­tion. In July and August every year, the Zoo hosts an Asian Lantern Fes­ti­val, which is one of our favorite events in Cleve­land. The lanterns are beau­ti­ful, the food is deli­cious, and the show is fun and full of great talent. 

 

 

Picture of flower lanterns

The Asian Lantern Fes­ti­val at the Cleve­land Metroparks Zoo is one of my favorite events in Cleve­land  © Emi­ly House­hold­er Stacey

 

 

Professional Sports

 

Tick­ets to watch The Browns, Indi­ans and Cav­a­liers are very afford­able.  A friend from Chica­go told me that it was cheap­er for him to fly to Cleve­land, get a hotel for the week­end and buy tick­ets at Pro­gres­sive field than it was to buy sim­i­lar tick­ets at Wrigley Field! The Cleve­land Browns even offer fam­i­ly-friend­ly sec­tions where no alco­hol is permitted. 

 

 

Progressive Field

Pro­gres­sive Field is home to the Cleve­land Indi­ans, as well as home to a small­er ver­sion of most of Cleve­land’s best restau­rants. You can get way more than just a hot dog here! Pho­to Cour­tesy of Chris Chow

 

Where to Stay:

Bring­ing Fido? Then check out The 9, which fea­tures an indoor dog park. The 9 is where NFL teams stay when they are town, so you know it’s nice! ($225–300 a night). If you want to vis­it both Cedar Point and Cleve­land, Elyr­ia is a great half way point. I like the  Court­yard in Elyr­ia ($100–125), but there are plen­ty of good options. If you’re catch­ing a show, check out the Wyn­d­ham at Play­house Square, its walk­ing dis­tance to most of the sta­di­ums down­town too!

 

Where to Eat

 

Your kids are going to love Melt Bar and Grilled. Don’t let the word bar fool you, Melt is very kid-friend­ly, they have a great kids menu and plen­ty of high chairs! Melt serves up gourmet grilled cheese, and so much more. It’s worth men­tion­ing that the por­tions are huge, I always have at least half of my meal for left­overs. If sand­wich­es aren’t your thing, then head over to Lit­tle Italy and try out Mama San­ta’s Fet­tuc­cine Alfredo. 

 

 

When You Go:

 

The eas­i­est way to get to Cleve­land from South­ern Cal­i­for­nia is to fly into Cleve­land Hop­kins Air­port. Cleve­land does have a rail and bus sys­tem, but I would high­ly rec­om­mend rent­ing a car or using Uber while in town. 

 

 

 

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A Locals Guide to Cleveland. Get the best of family fun and find the best things to do in Cleveland with kids.

A Locals Guide to Cleveland. Get the best of family fun and find the best things to do in Cleveland with kids.

 

 

Emi­ly House­hold­er Stacey is a writer, trav­el agent and mom based in sun­ny Cleve­land, Ohio. Emi­ly runs Aida’s Adven­tures trav­el agency while her son takes his after­noon nap. She has trav­eled through­out Aus­tralia, Asia and North Amer­i­ca and the rest of the world is on her buck­et list. Emi­ly and her fam­i­ly love a good theme park. They have annu­al pass­es to 6 of them!